As converts who discovered the Church in their African homeland while raising a
young family, Elder Joseph W. Sitati and his wife, Sister Gladys Sitati, learned early an essential
gospel truth: It's the simple things that matter most.
The Church was in its infancy in the Sitatis' native Kenya when the couple was
baptized in 1986. Still, the full joy of the gospel, said Elder Sitati, could be realized, then and
now, "from family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, going to Church together and
having family counsel."
And, added Sister Sitati, "by having the children sing their Primary songs; knowing
that Jesus Christ is their friend."
Elder Sitati, 56, was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy during the Church's
general conference of April 2009. He was the first east African to serve as a General Authority.
Despite Christian upbringings, the Sitatis were not really religious people before
finding the Church. They occasionally attended one local congregation or another, but felt no urge to
continue. "We were disillusioned at the time with many churches [in Kenya]," said Elder Sitati. "Many
had political overtones. We never felt spiritual nourishment."
They came to know of the restored gospel "quite accidentally." In 1985, the
Sitatis were introduced to an American senior missionary couple serving in Nairobi. The Church had yet
to receive legal recognition in the country and proselyting was not allowed. Striking up an acquaintance
with the couple, the Sitatis went one day to their small Sabbath-day services consisting of a few LDS
expatriates and a handful of native Kenyans.
The Sitatis and their children felt immediately at home.
"We just felt good being there," remembered Elder Sitati with a smile. "The
members invited us to come back the following Sunday, and we did. Since then, we have had an unbroken
attendance record at Church."
Some six months after that first meeting, the couple accepted an invitation to
join the Church. They were baptized in a small outdoor swimming pool. With his new Church membership
in hand, Elder Sitati commenced dedicated service to his new faith that continues today. Sister Sitati
was thrilled that her husband had become so devoted to the Lord.
"I was happy because now my husband could come to Church with me," she said.
"Previously, he had not liked the other churches. He would take me and the children to wherever I wanted
to go to church — then he would go to work or go play golf."
The family's decision to join the tiny LDS congregation was met with skepticism
from their respective families. Some were vocal in their opposition. But the Sitatis opt not to dwell
on the memories of such reactions. "I had made up my mind," Elder Sitati told the Church News. "I felt
that the Church was true. I felt that the doctrines were good for me and my family. The experience we
were having was a good one."
Although few of his professional associates claimed any belief in the divine, they
respected Joseph Sitati for his efforts to serve in his faith and remain a loyal, hard-working employee.
He was put to work in the Church in Kenya immediately after his baptism, serving
in priesthood callings ranging from branch and stake president to Area Seventy. When he was called to
be a General Authority he was presiding over the Nigeria Calabar Mission.
"The Lord said that a city set upon a hill cannot be hid," he said. "I was always
conscious of the fact that I was visible to the people. My actions were visible. Therefore, I had to
step up and try to be someone better, someone that others could look at and believe in the things that
I taught them."
Elder Sitati said his leadership opportunities in Kenya also afforded an
opportunity to learn from several of the Brethren who visited his country. "As I saw these men, I saw
the kind of people they were. They strengthened my faith. They built in me a desire to be like them."
As Africans, the Sitatis can speak authoritatively on the many challenges facing
members living on their massive continent. Cultural practices sometimes run counter to Church principles.
Becoming an observant Church member in many African nations, they said, can put a man or woman at odds
with their own community. Still, the Church in Kenya, Nigeria and other African countries is growing
and maturing. The sacred work of sharing the gospel is essential to the future of the Church in Africa.
"I believe that missionary work is the most important work in the Church," said
Sister Sitati said many in Africa who have spent a lifetime searching for the
truth are responding to the missionaries and their happy message. When investigators are taught the
gospel "they accept it — it is like they have been waiting."
The recent dedication of temples in nations such as Nigeria and Ghana is further
evidence of Africa's place in the Church. Lives in the region are being blessed as never before. As
parents of five children, the Sitatis are grateful for the blessings such temples offer families.
"The temple brings into a person's life an influence that they cannot get
anywhere else," said Elder Sitati. "This influence calls and challenges each person to the highest
state of holiness in their lives. I believe that people are more committed to the gospel as they go to